Our research projects aim to understand the development of social cognition, creativity and social learning. Below is a list of our current studies:

Group Bias in Second-Party Punishment

Groups are vital to social life. When group membership is identified, people usually tend to have positive preferences or attitudes toward their in-group members. Meanwhile, people may also expect to be reciprocated with such preferential treatment. Then an intriguing question arises: if people are treated unfairly by an in-group member, what will they do? Are people more tolerant of in-group members’ selfishness because of the in-group favoritism, or more intolerant due to the violation of the expectation? Our study examines how children react when others steal resources from them or when others distribute resources in a selfish manner (thus violating a moral/cooperative norm). We also want to see whether children punish the norm violators differently according to their group memberships (they are in the same group, in different groups, or the violator doesn't have a clear group identity). This will help us understand how children develop group cognition during social interactions

Group Bias in Third-party punishment

People sometimes volunteer to punish those who violate social norms, even when they are not directly harmed by the transgressor and when the punishment is costly. This phenomenon of third-party punishment is observed widely across cultures. Why do people impose third-party punishment at personal cost? Is this third-party punishment influenced by social group membership? For instance, do people impose punishment differentially depending on whether the transgressor is an in-group member versus an out-group member? Does the group relationship (compete vs. cooperate with each other) matter? We address these issues in both young children and adults, aiming to depict a developmental picture of group bias in third-party punishment, and highlight the mechanisms underlying human morality and group cognition.

Emotions and Prosocial Behavior

Prosocial behavior, such as sharing, cooperating, or helping, is playing a significant role in human society. What inspire and motivate people to perform prosocial behaviors even when faced with loss of resources and potential physical harm? Is there an affective self-reward mechanism that help people maintain prosocial behavior? That is, does prosocial behavior make people happy? Does happiness promote prosocial behavior? Do children perform altruistic behavior differently according to their own emotional status? These studies have important educational implications in promoting children’s prosocial behaviors.

Theory of mind understanding

This line of research focuses on children’s development of theory of mind, a critical social cognitive skill to understand others’ knowledge, thoughts, beliefs and emotions. Furthermore, we investigate the relation between theory of mind and distributive justice, aiming to understand how this social cognitive skill promotes the development of fairness and sophisticated moral judgments.

Creativity and Playing

The line of our research focuses on children’s development of creativity. We ask questions such as how parents’ attitude of children’s playing influences children’s creativity development, and how children’s own opinion of playing and learning makes a difference. We interview families on how they view creativity, what parents do to foster their children’s creativity, how much freedom they give to their children, etc. We aim to identify the family factors that influence creativity, and to create a measurement to test children’s creativity.